The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 26 June 2014

In Literary News

Hello Gentle Reader

Carmen Balcells in Spanish and Latin American literature is a name to be reckoned with. She has been nicknamed La Mamá Grande – after one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short stories (Big Momma’s Funeral). She is the literary agent of some of the greatest giants of the Latin American Boom, and Spanish language literature in general. She has managed six Nobel Laureates in Literature – including the recently deceased Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. She has been referred to as one of the most influential women in Spanish letters. However, at eighty three years old, La Mamá Grande is aware of her age. The Latin Boom maybe over, but it is in debt to Carmen Balcells, for her liaison between Spain and Latin America; and the eventual release of such books translated into English for the rest of the world to enjoy. The backlist of the Boom lives on; however Balcells has no clear successor; which leaves a purgatory for her authors work. Who would negotiate and broker deals with foreign publishers? Who would ensure that her authors got their fair cut of the deal? All of this Balcells had done for each of them before hand, ensuring that each of her authors budded and bloomed accordingly. Her lavish parties are the talk of legends; and each of her authors adore, Balcells, looking to her as a friend and confidant. Yet with the onslaught of time, Balcells has come to a deal with the American literary agent Andrew Wylie, to create the Balcells-Wylie agency; in which Carmen Balcells authors would come under joint management of herself and Andrew Wylie. What this means for Wylie is that he is getting a deeper and more lucrative hold into the publishing industry of Spain and Latin America – specifically for Latin America; as sales continue to rise; since Spain was hit hard by the economic crisis. Wylie has attempted three times to get a stronger foot hold into this literary market. Hopefully this means more Spanish authors that are not well known, will soon be published into English, and the Spanish speaking worlds of Latin America and Spain, will be able to achieve a stronger dialogue between the two languages. Time will have to tell.

Continuing with the Latin American Spanish language theme:

Recently new poems by Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda had been discovered. What is interesting in regards to this ‘universal significance,’ as the manager of Neruda’s estate has stated; is that the poems discovered are in Neruda’s mature style. These are not amateur poems, by a younger poet; but the poetry that Neruda has become famous for. Six of the twenty poems that were discovered are love poems; and the other fourteen vary in the themes of Neruda’s universe. Though these poems are to be published in Latin America this year, and then in Spain next year; there is no news when they will be published in English.

[Last and least:]

The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has also announced this years winner. The American writer, computer scientist and composer of classical music: Jaron Lannier has been announced to receive the prize; which he will receive October during the Frankfurt Book Fair. Previous winners include Liao Yiwu the expatriate Chinese author in two-thousand and twelve and the Belarusian journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich who won in two-thousand and thirteen. Congratulations to Jaron Lannier.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Friday 13 June 2014

IMPAC Literary Dublin Award

Hello Gentle Reader

This year’s IMPAC Literary Dublin Award, has been awarded to the Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez, for his novel: “The Sound of Things Falling.” The novel traces the Colombian drug trade, and was cited by critics as a: “consummate literary thriller that resonates long after the final page.” The judges citation for the prize had the following to say:

“Through a masterly command of layered time periods, spiralling mysteries and a noir palette, it reveals how intimate lives are overshadowed by history; how the past preys on the present; and how the fate of individuals as well as countries is moulded by distant, or covert, events.”

Juan Gabriel Vásquez was up against such veteran authors like Karl Ove Knausgaard from Norway and Frances Marie NDiaye; both of whom were named heavy contenders for the lucrative prize.

Congratulations are in order to Juan Gabriel Vásquez for his winning novel.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Thursday 5 June 2014

Poetry and the Everyday – A Great Divide

Hello Gentle Reader

Jeremy Paxman a British broadcaster; who is known as the host on the BBC program “Newsnight,” – which after twenty five years of hosting, he is now leaving; was one of the judges for the Forward Prize for Poetry. Paxman was very receptive to the poetry that he read, going as far as to state: “nothing on the shortlist that I don't feel better for having read.” However Paxman made a rather controversial statement, in the end – a statement that I agree with:

From “The Guardian: Books,” Article:

“I think poetry has really rather connived at its own irrelevance and that shouldn't happen, because it's the most delightful thing," said Paxman. "It seems to me very often that poets now seem to be talking to other poets and that is not talking to people as a whole.”

In this case Paxman is right. Poetry has locked itself away from the public, and become a reclusive old man or woman, hiding behind volumes and volumes of poetry, barricaded in the ivory tower, in which they only communicate with other poets via a ‘correspondence of air.’ In a sense poetry and poets have lost sight of the greater and larger world around them. There appears to be a lack of mutual grounds of agreement with poets and the everyday reader, and that has since alienated poetry from the general public, and the general public from poetry. Where one has moved on with their lives – choosing to engage with films, daytime soap operas, talk shows, and the dreaded ‘reality tv,’ that can be summed up as: sixteen and pregnant, [some] shore, or the [supposedly] real housewives of [insert some place]; as well as video games, and other such forms of entertainment. The other however, hides away from a world, which they could neither fathom nor wish to be a part of. Now there is regret and resentment in the decision to hide away from the world. Poetry sales decline more and more. The art of writing poetry is now seen as a specialty in itself. It has the connotations of: ‘scholars only,’ attached to it; or the thought of lovers struck by their desire to be with each other; or that of the broken hearted; weaving their feelings into words. In the end poetry has since been rendered to the most superficial forms, and has been left as the begrudged obligations that one’s English teacher must teach in their class. The groans of students when the sentence: “today we start discussing poetry,” can still be heard echoing in the minds of every former student of High School; each of whom have happily forgotten the Italian and Shakespearian sonnet.

Still poetry is not entirely written in vain. Poetry (as those who have come to its defense) is often recited at funerals and marriages; why else do we have poet laureates, and a poem recited at presidential inaugurations. Poetry is the expression of emotion through imagery, laced together in a form that straddles the lines between prose and music. Poetry’s place in the world is small. It is recited at events of meaning. They can be used to up the sentimental value of the moment. They drive a point home in recitation of a specific line; as I had just done the other day when discussing ‘love,’ with a co-worker the two lines that I recited were from two different poets:

“It is better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all.”
- Lord Alfred Tennyson

“The heart will break, but broken live on.”
- Lord Byron

Through the words of two poets, I was able to drive my point home. It appears that poetry is not entirely dead. It is alienated from the everyday reader; who have moved away from poetry and moved into other areas of pastimes. However poetry is still around and alive. Though poets have locked themselves away from the world, and some have found great success in the literary world; John Paxman’s comments that poetry has become: “rather connived at its own irrelevance.” It still is finding new ways to engage with the world, such as performance poetry, and poetry slams.

Should poets be forced to answer to inquisitions as John Paxman has suggested; to defend their choice of words, imagery, and the form itself? Perhaps it’s not always the poets to blame. In my opinion: it is how we teach poetry, and how we learn poetry that could make the difference. Poetry should be taught not as a black and white, subject, but be open to interpretation, and all interpretations should be openly discussed. This way students do not receive a dreadful disgust of poetry, but rather are asked to think for themselves, see something in a new and different light, and formulate an opinion based upon their own thoughts and associations from the poem.

I would like to leave off with the satirical poem: “Poetry Reading,” by Wisława Szymborska:

“To be a boxer, or not to be there
at all. O Muse, where are our teeming crowds?
Twelve people in the room, eight seats to spare
it's time to start this cultural affair.
Half came inside because it started raining,
the rest are relatives. O Muse.

The women here would love to rant and rave,
but that's for boxing. Here they must behave.
Dante's Infemo is ringside nowadays.
Likewise his Paradise. O Muse.

Oh, not to be a boxer but a poet,
one sentenced to hard shelleying for life,
for lack of muscles forced to show the world
the sonnet that may make the high-school reading lists
with luck. O Muse,
O bobtailed angel, Pegasus.

In the first row, a sweet old man's soft snore:
he dreams his wife's alive again. What's more,
she's making him that tart she used to bake.
Aflame, but carefully-don't burn his cake!
we start to read. O Muse.”

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary